New Feature – Week In (In)Justice

We’d like to welcome new author Prodigal Son, who will be doing a weekly feature on injustice: who it hurts, how it gets explained away, and what we can do to stamp it out. Look for it regularly on Wednesdays – Aaron

YouTube is flooded with video footage of police abuses and misconduct. Sadly, the mere ocean of anecdotal evidence isn’t usually enough to force departments and municipalities to examine police practices and weed out bad eggs and bad ideas. In order for change to take place people need to be aware of the problem as well as some proposed solutions. It is with a desire to see equal justice for all and a better way to preserve domestic peace that I will highlight the three worst cases of police abuse or injustice as well as analyze why it happened and what could have prevented it.

For the week of May 11-17 the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project reports 132 cases of police misconduct in the United States. Remember, this is just what is reported and makes it to the mainstream media, there is undoubtedly more cases than just this. The top 3:

#3 Case of Police Misconduct: NYPD forensic lab technician Mariem Megalla apparently falsified drug test results because she didn’t want to walk all the way across the lab to fill out the paperwork that is required for re-testing. So every positive test may have actually been negative because she was lazy. This throws into question “thousands” of criminal cases

#2 Case of Police Misconduct: Sergeant Robert Ralston of the Philadelphia Police Department has admitted to shooting himself and blaming “two black males” for the crime. Despite admitting to the crime (filing a false police report) he will not face charges because the DA has offered him immunity for telling the truth. Considering they already knew he was lying this seems a little strange. Ralston will be dismissed from the department but will likely be able to keep his $24,000 per year pension.  Talk about perverse incentives… you screw up so you get your pension because you told the truth weeks after the incident after it was already obvious you were lying.

#1 Case of Police Misconduct: This is a sad case indeed. In Detroit a 7-year old girl named Aiyana Jones was sleeping on her couch when the police broke down the front door and threw in a flash grenade in pursuit of a murder suspect. The police were in full riot gear and got into a “tussle” with Aiyana’s grandmother that resulted in “some level of physical contact”. I would probably stand up and see what was going on too if my door exploded and men in black riot gear started storming the building. During the “tussle” the officer’s gun “went off”, and struck Aiyana in the neck, killing her.  The officers are claiming that the grandmother attempted to take the officer’s gun, I find this very unlikely. Really, what grandmother would try to fight a swarm of police coming into  the house? That is asinine. The attorney for the Jones’ is saying that there is video proof that the officers outside the building actually fired into it. If this account is true that will make the entire department look like nothing more than a crime-ring trying to cover up a murder. If an officer really did shoot into the doorway at unarmed residents who were not suspects of any crime and that bullet killed a 7-year old girl there is needs to be real ramifications. The police department is saying the shot was accidental. Now I am not a lawyer, and I don’t know if I believe the police department, but even if this is true I bet the “punishment” for the officer who fired the fun will be different than if it was a citizen. I bet if I accidentally killed someone with my handgun the least I would get is involuntary manslaughter, let’s see if this officer gets the same.

Considering the suspect was not in the Jones’ apartment, he was in an upstairs apartment separate from theirs this raid raises some serious questions. First, if they knew where this guy lived, knew he was home and had no reason to believe he was a threat to anyone, why didn’t they just wait outside for him to come out eventually? Why the military style raid? Why raid every apartment in the building? I believe it comes down to the absurd militarization of our nation’s police forces.

While the idea of “Showtime Syndrome” has merit, the real problem is we train our police like the military, so they view us all as combatants, not innocent citizens. They are no longer here to “protect and serve” they are nothing more than a visible extension of the power of government. They use sub-machine guns and riot equipment to crack down on marijuana users, they kick down doors of innocent people with no repercussions and the whole time they say “look how often we need to use our SWAT, give us more money so we can do it more”.

Unless our cities return law enforcement to its roots of viewing the public as innocent instead of a threat this kind of police action will continue. It is a complex issue but the first step is to stop criminalizing victimless crimes. If police are forced to enforce unjust laws the tactics will continue to become more violent, people resist being told what to do with their bodies, property and lives. The more personal an action is, the more force is going to be required to prevent it, and the more children are going to be shot down in the dead of night simply because they fell asleep on the couch in Philadelphia.

Tonight our thoughts and prayers go to you and your family Aiyana, I hope this is a wake-up call to those in your community that the status quo cannot continue.

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3 Responses to New Feature – Week In (In)Justice

  1. Mr. Fantastic says:

    Wow, # 2&3 were kinda funny and uplifting, while #1 pretty much bummed me out.

    I think most libertarians agree that you need government at a minimum for defense, including police departments. Are these the types of things that we just shrug off as necessary evils, or are there ways to fix this problem long term?

  2. Prodigal Son says:

    You are right, most libertarians do agree that the police force is part of the proper role of government, I am not sure if fall in that camp though. Regardless, we live in a world with government run police and I think it would be beneficial to reform them as much as possible. A step in the right direction would be to turn internal investigations of police over to civilian run agencies or a state-level agency as opposed to departments policing themselves. Another step in the right direction would be to eliminate the militarized police force as much as possible or at least pass laws that limit the use (for instance, passing a law that says that law enforcement can only use “no knock” warrants and dynamic entries if they have reason to believe that someone is in immediate danger. Also, all police activities should be recorded and those recordings be made public unedited, if any recording is missing or damaged there should be serious repercussions. There are a lot of changes that could help ensure police are actually serving and protecting. Police may be a necessary evil but we should work to minimize that evil as much as possible. Ideally we would remove law enforcement from government hands and introduce market forces to increase quality of service and reduce waste.

  3. Matt says:

    Be sure to read William Grigg’s article about the killing of Aiyana:

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